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Trump's California Wildfires Comment; Remains Found at New Mexico Compound; Shark Encounter with Researcher. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired August 8, 2018 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I want to focus on these statements the president made about water and not being properly utilized to fight these fires because when he made this statement, people on the front lines there reacted to us, including people literally fighting the fires, with his head cocked saying, huh? What's he talking about there? Do you have any sense?


The president's comments were confused. They were confusing. They weren't helpful. They were basically ignorant about the reality on the ground.

As we just heard, these fires are the worst in California's history, but there's no shortage of water to fight the fires. California has plenty of water for fighting fires. So -- and the reality is, we don't use much water to fight these fires. We build fires breaks. We put fire retardant to try and contain these fires. It's not a water issue.

I think the president is confusing the science behind what's causing these intense fires and our very complex long history of fights over water resources. It's not been a helpful set of comments from him.

BERMAN: And, indeed, California and its entire history as a state, water and water resources and the fight over it has been part and parcel of the development of that state. But just to put a fine point on this, these fires are actually taking place near large reservoirs, some of the biggest in the entire state.

GLEICK: Well, that's right. They're near Whisky Town Lake and Shasta Lake and Clear Lake. Some of the largest bodies of water. There's just no shortage of water to deal with these fires. And the president's comments ignore the reality on the ground, which is that we know that climate change is playing a role. We know that the very high temperatures we are experiencing, as we heard at the preview of this piece, have played an enormous role. We know that the severe drought that California experienced was worsened by the reality of climate change. And those are things the president either doesn't understand or is unfortunately ignoring.

BERMAN: I think the fact that the White House will not defend or even attempt to defend or explain the president's comments about water specifically tell you that that part of his statement is more or less from outer space, I think politically and scientifically. However, there was something he said which I believe is closer to

where there is a genuine debate here. He says, must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading. What he's suggesting there is something about forest management. And the secretary of interior, Ryan Zinke, wrote about this in an op-ed this morning in "USA Today." He says stop -- well, let me read you what he said. Radical environmentalists would have you believe that forest management means clear-cutting forests and national parks, but their rhetoric could not be further from the truth. They make an outdated and unscientific argument void of facts because they cannot defend the merits of their policy preferences year after year as our forests and homes burn to the ground.

There are issues around forest management that are up for debate right now, doctor, yes?

GLEICK: There certainly are. There are decades of conversations about how to best manage our forests, how to best manage fires. We -- we're coming off of almost a century of putting out fires rather than letting low level fires burn, and that's built up the fire load, the fuel load, that's contributing to this problem.

It would be great if the federal government would improve their forest management policies, but that's not going to prevent these forest fires from happening. We're going to have to address the way we develop land, the way be build our homes, the way we deal with in the long run the large-scale challenges associated with climate change and higher temperatures. All of those things are rolled up together. And it would be great if the president offered something more than confusing information here.

BERMAN: I mean the headline, again, as we're looking at video of some of these fires, is biggest fire that California has ever seen. It doesn't sound like you're surprised by that.

GLEICK: Well, unfortunately, we've seen a growing trend over time in the severity and intensity of these fires. Again, this is clear evidence of the growing extreme events we're seeing worldwide associated with human caused climate change. But fires happen all the time. We have a long history of fires in the western United States. But what we're seeing this year is absolutely unpresented. We need to address the causes and we need to address the policies associated with them.

BERMAN: Dr. Peter Gleick, a pleasure to have you with us this morning. Appreciate it.

GLEICK: Thank you.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right, John, there's been a gruesome find at this New Mexico compound where 11 children were living in squalor. We have all the details in a live report, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [08:38:39] CAMEROTA: Five adults were arrested after 11 starving children were found living in squalor in New Mexico, and they are due in court today. They include the father of a boy missing since December. Could remains that have also been found at that compound be that missing boy?

CNN's Scott McLean is live at that compound in Taos County, New Mexico, with the latest.

What a horror show, Scott.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Alisyn. And, look, it is impossible to look at this compound and not have all kinds of questions. Not only why would anybody want to live here, but also what were they doing? You know, you see all these random construction materials strewn about. You know, there are -- there's wiring, there's bottles, we found religious books, we found how-to manuals and there are these trenches and holes everywhere. There's even a tunnel that leads off the property.

Now, at the back of the compound there is also what looks to be a firing range. And when police searched this area on Friday, they actually found four pistols and an AR-15. But they didn't look that hard, and that is because the actual property owners here, well, they did their own search over the weekend and they found even more guns in this box truck. That is evidence, they say, of how police have bungled this case from the get-go.


MCLEAN (voice over): Last week, sheriff's deputies raided a remote New Mexico compound where they found 11 malnourished children living inside of this squalid half-buried trailer with no power, no clean water and barely any food. But it was Monday when they discovered the real horror.

[08:40:09] JERRY HOGREFE, TAOS COUNTY SHERIFF: Yesterday, at 11:19 a.m., we did find the remains of a young boy.

MCLEAN: The body has yet to be identified.

Five adults have each been charged with child abuse, one of them, Siraj Wahhaj, had a warrant out for his arrest in Georgia. Late last year, he disappeared with his then three-year-old son Abdul-ghani, leaving the boy's mother helpless.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He needs his medication. He needs -- he needs -- he needs everything. I don't -- I don't know now if he's alive.

MCLEAN: The adults built the mess of wood, tarps and tires on someone else's land. The rightful land owners, Jason and Tanya Badger, say they spoke directly with Wahhaj and actually saw the young boy twice this winter. In April, they discovered the boy was listed as missing and his father, a fugitive. They reported the sightings to state and local law enforcement, but it was months before police moved in.

MCLEAN (on camera): They knew that you had seen this kid and he was very likely on the property?

JASON BADGER, PROPERTY OWNER: And I told them Siraj is there.

TANYA BADGER, PROPERTY OWNER: They were dragging their feet. They were taking too long. Even if they were trying to build a case or whatnot, you know, a child's life is at stake.

MCLEAN: There was no excuse.

J. BADGER: Yes, there was no excuse.


MCLEAN (voice over): The Badgers had given the local sheriff's office permission to search their property, but the sheriff says the law still would not allow it. The FBI conducted surveillance, but say they never spotted Wahhaj or the boy.

HOGREFE: I had no probable cause to get a search warrant to go on to this property. In hindsight, there was, but we would not have been there lawfully.

MCLEAN: Wahhaj's father, who shares the same name, is a New York imam, the first Muslim to lead a prayer in the House of Representatives. But also a controversial figure. He was a character witness for the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. The imam's spokesperson said he and the entire faith community is devastated that those remains could possibly be those of Abdul-ghani.

Tanya Badger is equally torn up. After hearing a body was found, she went back to lay flowers in honor of the boy she says was failed by bureaucracy and inaction.


MCLEAN: And this is where Tanya Badger left those flowers. When she was here yesterday, John, she was in tears because she is haunted by the possibility this child might have been saved. It is not clear when the child died, but Badger says that if it was after her and her husband notified law enforcement, then they ought to be held accountable, John.

BERMAN: All right, Scott McLean for us in New Mexico. Thank you so much for bringing this story. Appreciate it.

A Spanish fighter jet accidentally fired an air-to-air missile during a training mission over Estonia, but investigators have not been able to find it or what's left of it. A NATO official tells CNN, even though the missile has built-in self-destruction mode, officials have not ruled out that it landed yesterday. The Estonian air force is now looking for it.

CAMEROTA: OK, now for your pun story of the day.

Moo-ve over, officers.

BERMAN: Oh my.

CAMEROTA: A group of bold bovines, John, are doing their jobs. Take a look at this scene taken by police helicopter in Florida Monday night. A woman tried to run out of a stolen SUV that crashed near a pasture, but it turns out these 16 crime-fighting cows had some beef with her --


CAMEROTA: Oh, yes. I'm not done.

The cattle cornered the suspect before police moo-ved in.


CAMEROTA: I'm not done. And they put her udder arrest. See what I did there? Instead of under, I used udder.

BERMAN: Do the move thing again. Do it one more time.

CAMEROTA: Moo-ve over, officers. That one's he easy one. I mean that one -- they write themselves. These things write themselves.

BERMAN: You've got to live with yourself. You've got to look yourself in the mirror every morning.

CAMEROTA: They're not -- this isn't being videotaped, is it?

BERMAN: Yes, exactly. No one else is seeing this, are they?

So, just when you thought it was safe to go in the ocean -- where's the "Jaws" music here?

CAMEROTA: You do it?

BERMAN: I'm not doing the music. I don't do the sound effects. The sound effects is your thing.

CAMEROTA: Yes, do the -- do the -- dun, dun, dun, dun, dun --

BERMAN: I think maybe somewhere under our banner, a great white shark just leapt out of the water there --


BERMAN: Below that sign. Oh -- you know I'm terrified of sharks.

CAMEROTA: Oh, well, then this next segment you're really going to enjoy, because it's terrifying.

BERMAN: Oh, no.


BERMAN: Oh, no.

CAMEROTA: And this is where you go swimming.

BERMAN: It is, in fact.

CAMEROTA: This is right where you go swimming.

BERMAN: Cape Cod.

CAMEROTA: All right. So we'll show you what happened and we will speak to that marine scientist momentarily.

But, first, Matt Maxi (ph) was born with profound hearing loss and he struggled to learn sign language. Then he discovered hip-hop music and he found his voice by way of his hands. So now he's putting music and motion together for a whole new audience. His story is this edition of "Turning Points."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have what is called a severely profound hearing loss. I probably hear about 25 percent of what's going on. With my hearing aids, I can hear 60 to 75 percent.

[08:45:11] My mom wanted me to do speech therapy. She figured later in life, I could communicate in sign language.

I went to a deaf university. Sign language was such a struggle.

I have a lot of listening experience to music. I know a lot of these lyrics. Let me just add all the vocabulary words to all these songs and see if I can keep up.

The more songs I learned, the more vocabulary I learned.

I wanted to make this a job. I wanted to make this my life.

DEAFinitely Dope was just something that we made more to break barriers between the hearing and deaf community.

We're bringing music to them. It's just bringing it in a way that's more visually stimulating.

We first started out volunteering, going to different schools. We did ASL music camp, motivational speaking, interpreting for performances. I was interpreting for D.R.A.M.

Chance the rapper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name id Chance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're trying to paint a picture for you. Sign language is a way to bring that picture to life.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [08:50:34] CAMEROTA: OK, now for John Berman's favorite story of the day. Marine scientist Greg Skomal tracks sharks off of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. But he's never had one tracking him. His frightening brush with jaws was caught on video. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa! Holy crap! It jumped right out of the water!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you see that?



CAMEROTA: OK, that was a great white shark. It lunged at Greg Skomal.

Joining us now to talk about this close encounter is Greg Skomal. He's a shark expert and senior scientist at the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

Greg, we're happy that you're in one piece. Tell us about that moment and what you were thinking when a shark jumped out of the water at you.


You know what, we've been going out for the last four or five years doing this twice and a week for four and a half months, and it's fairly routine for us to come up on a white shark and try to get video tape of it, try to tag it.

This particular shark, we didn't -- we didn't see. We couldn't see. The visibility in the water was horrible. Until suddenly, from below -- below me comes this leaping giant white shark. And I've got to tell you, it startled me. It startled me quite a bit. And it only lasted maybe a split second. So it's not like I had time to think about it. So I just, you know, put the camera in the water and hoped I would be able to get video of it. Unfortunately, I did not. But it was exciting to say the least.

CAMEROTA: Oh, yes, exciting is one word for it. Frightening and terrifying is another.

But why did that shark jump out at you? Had you annoyed it somehow? I mean how unusual is it to see a great white shark jump out of the water like that?

SKOMAL: Well, in our part of the world off the coast of Massachusetts, Cape Cod, New England, these sharks typically do not breach (ph). They don't jump out of the water. We've one see it two other times. One time we captured it on film. And generally it's because they're chasing some kind of prey item, some kind of seal. And, in this case, it's really, really rare, it jumped up. We don't know what motivated it. Was it the boat spooking the shark or was the shark actively jumping out of the water to try to get me as a potential prey item? I can't answer that question, but I'm happy to be sitting here today, I'll tell you that much.

BERMAN: The shark wanted to eat him!

CAMEROTA: It looks like it.

BERMAN: You look at the video, the shark wanted to eat him!

CAMEROTA: It does look -- I agree with you, because it had its mouth open.

BERMAN: All right, I'm going to leave the interview now. (INAUDIBLE).

CAMEROTA: Yes, no, no, you're staying here because -- because -- and here's why, Greg, that we -- I mean it does look like it wanted to eat you.

And here's my question. You know, about eight days ago, something happened to a friend of mine also off the water of Cape Cod. His name is Roger Freeman (ph). He was minding his own business paddle boarding. Here's a picture of my friend on the paddle board, and a drone flying overhead captured a great white coming within feet of his paddle board.

Now, my friend wasn't aware of what was happening under the water, but the drone, it was from the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, which was tracking some sharks. And they then showed him when he got back to shore how close it was.

So my question to you is, are you seeing more sharks this summer coming closer to the shore and to human beings?

SKOMAL: You know, we've been studying these sharks for about ten years now pretty intensively over the last half dozen and we've been seeing the sharks fairly close to shore. And they're there. And they're there because there's lots of seals, which they want to eat, really tight to the shorelines. So they're going to come tight, tight to the beaches.

And we've been really trying to convince the public that you don't want to go far from the shoreline. You just want to stay close to shore. You don't want to expose yourself to any potential risk here. The probability of an interaction with a white shark is really, really low. But as your friend demonstrated, if you go out there at a great distance, these sharks will check you out, they will approach you. We want people to use common sense in the presence of these animals.

CAMEROTA: I'm not sure you're comforting my co-host, John Berman, who doesn't like the idea that there are more sharks coming in closer to the shore. And when you say use common sense, I mean, what are you supposed to do with a great white circling you?

SKOMAL: Well, you know, hopefully you don't put yourself in a position where these white sharks will be circling you. You know, the sharks are not coming right, right up to the beach. You can go in the water. You can stay within a, you know, a few yards, a dozen yards of the beach. You know, you can do what you want to do. But in certain areas where there are high concentrations of white sharks -- and we can tell you where those areas are, you don't want to go out 100 yards, 200 yards from the shoreline because then you place yourself at potential risk.

[08:55:23] CAMEROTA: OK.

SKOMAL: But that risk is really, really low, John.


BERMAN: I appreciate that. Look, I know and I know the important role that sharks play in the food chain. But when you admit to being startled by the shark who was trying to eat you clearly and noting that it's rare for them to breach like that, that is the type of thing that, I apologize, but it scares me.


SKOMAL: Yes, and it can be frightening. I'm -- you know, I'm trying not to tell my wife that it was trying to eat me. But now the word's out. I guess (INAUDIBLE).

CAMEROTA: Greg Skomal, thank you very much for sharing your incredible video with us and giving us all a warning of how to stay close to shore this summer. Great to talk to you.

SKOMAL: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: I'm sure you feel much, much better.

BERMAN: I need to take a moment.

CAMEROTA: OK. Well, we have "The Good Stuff" for you next. I think that will help.



BERMAN: All right, this is "The Good Stuff."

A young girl from Michigan using her summer to help veterans. Sammy Striker (ph) got into the lemonade business when she was nine. Initially she wanted to raise money for school clothes, but then her mother stepped in.


SAMMY STRIKER: My mom showed me a video on FaceBook of a hurt veteran and I decided to help him the first year.


BERMAN: She was so inspired, she decided to set up her lemonade stand each summer. This year Sammy raised more than $2,000 for our nation's heroes.


STRIKER: We can take all the help we can get from the -- for the hospitals. And because there's a lot of people that need help.


CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, I love Sammy. She's inspirational. That's so nice when kids do that for other people. I'm going to go home and ground my kids right now.

BERMAN: You know what you should do when you see a lemonade stand with kids trying to raise money?

CAMEROTA: Go buy some lemonade.

BERMAN: Go buy some lemonade. It's not hard to do.

CAMEROTA: That's a great, selfless act that you --

BERMAN: That's "The Good Stuff."

CAMEROTA: That's "The Good Stuff."

BERMAN: That's tomorrow's "Good Stuff."

CAMEROTA: Yes. All right, everyone, thanks so much for joining us. Time now for CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good Wednesday morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

[08:59:52] The morning after the last special election before the November midterms, we still don't know who was elected. But for Democrats, it was definitely special. With all the precincts reporting but with several thousand absentee and provisional ballots still outstanding, Republican Troy Balderson holds less than a one percentage point lead over Democrat Danny O'Connor in the race for an open U.S. House seat in the 12th district of Ohio.